How The Memphis Grizzlies Improved After Trading Rudy Gay

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MEM_Gay_RudyTrading a star core player from a contending team is not usually a popular move with a team’s fan base, but we’ve seen two such moves this season improve a pair of Western Conference contenders.

The Oklahoma City Thunder have actually benefited from dealing James Harden to Houston, and the Memphis Grizzlies are 16-6 since trading forward Rudy Gay to Toronto in a three-team, six-player deal on Jan. 30, the latest victory coming on Marc Gasol’s tip-in at the end of overtime for a victory Wednesday night over Oklahoma City.

Plenty of fans and scribes weren’t too fond of the move by the new Memphis management trio of owner Robert Pera, executive Jason Levien and front office boss John Hollinger, the latter of whom was famously labeled “a statistician who worked for a cable sports company” by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix said that “the Grizzlies possessed the promise of a championship team just a few weeks ago, and now we will never know if they could have delivered.” (Note: Mannix will apparently talk about Gay in this week’s print issue of SI).

220px-Tayshaun_PrinceThe window of opportunity for a Western Conference title is still open for Memphis (albeit very slightly), because the team still has an imposing big tandem of Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. Add the backcourt of Mike Conley and Tony Allen, and the Grizzlies possess ample talent even after trading a player of Gay’s caliber. And after receiving Ed Davis from Toronto and Tayshaun Prince and Austin Daye from Detroit in the Gay trade, the team has actually gotten better.

How is that possible? Gay was having the worst season of his career and became an overrated shell of his former self this season. Quite frankly, Gay became a black hole on offense for the Grizzlies, and the stats bore that out.

Rudy Gay FG per game PPG FG% 3FG% TO/Game
November 16.7 18.7 41.5 41.9 2.2
December 16.4 16.7 39.4 23.3 2.7
January 15.8 15.9 40.5 28.6 2.5


Rudy GayGay became nothing more than a volume shooter for the Grizzlies, and a poor one at that. When your shots practically equal your points per game, there is something seriously wrong. Yahoo! Sports’ fantasy basketball calculates that the average field-goal percentage for a forward such as Gay is 45.6 percent. Gay has been routinely 5 percent worse than that as a shooter, and he does significant damage to an offense because he takes so many shots.

Therefore, it should have come as no surprise that Memphis suffered tremendously on offense with Gay in the lineup. And despite being replaced by a trio of players not known for their offense, there was actually an improvement in the team’s productivity after Gay’s departure. League rank in parentheses:

Memphis O PPG FG% 3FG% Turnovers
November 99.5 (9) 45 (12) 39.3 (6) 13.5 (4)
December 90.4 (27) 42.4 (27) 31.5 (27) 16.3 (30)
January 91.1 (30) 43.6 (26) 32.6 (27) 14.1 (9)
February 93.3 (24) 46 (15) 36.1 (16) 14.7 (15)
March 93.9 (22) 45.9 (13) 36.4 (14) 13.1 (4)

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